QUESTION:  I have run across a situation I have never encountered before and don't know how to handle. My best friend, a thirty-something Christian woman, is married, and she and her husband are starting to think about having a baby. Up until now, we have been really close since (except for marriage) our lives are pretty much the same. But a baby will, of course, change all of that. 

I am really praying for the Lord to lead me in what my new role will be in my friend's life. My question is: do you have any practical suggestions for how I can be encouraging and helpful to my friend in this time? I want to be there for her and her new family emotionally, spiritually, and practically, but I have no clue how to do this.

ANSWER:  Kudos to you for thinking of how to be a blessing at this time! That’s 90 percent of the effort right there. Well done!

Now to the practicals. My friends have children ranging from infants to teens, so I have had the benefit of watching how different stages of parenting affect adult sociability. From my personal experience and observation, I would say the first child introduces far more change than subsequent children. Becoming a parent is kind of like learning to ride a bike – it takes all your concentration to keep yourself upright. Then one day, it becomes almost an unconscious skill. Right now, your friend is entering the wobbly stage. If you remember that, you won’t be offended by her distraction as she concentrates on issues of conception, pregnancy, and child-rearing. She has to learn these new skills before she can multi-task them.

Being a friend to someone on this new journey is an opportunity for you to learn, as well. I would say that the most important and supportive thing you can do for her is to pray – and let her know of your prayer support.

The second most supportive thing would be to listen. Your friend and her husband are going to be thinking aloud about a lot of new things in the coming months and years. If they know you are interested and responsive, they will want to include you in this conversation. If they think you are jealous or bored, they will become more circumspect.

The third most important thing to do is ask questions. Ask how you can encourage them now, ask them what would be helpful, ask them what you can learn with them. Your friend may want you to come with her to doctor’s appointments – or she may feel this is something she wants to do just with her husband. You won’t know until you ask. Your friend may not want you to ask about her hopes for pregnancy – she may just want to tell you when she becomes pregnant. You won’t know until you ask her preferences.

I assume that you two may study the Word together and possibly are accountability partners. So you may want to offer to study parenting materials or pregnancy materials together – so you have an idea of what to inquire after when the baby arrives on the scene. Let your friend know, with a big smile, that you hope to be learning for the future, too. (I’ve listed some recommended resources below.)

Other practical suggestions would be to offer to plan a baby shower, to help paint the baby’s room, or to coordinate meals after she delivers. If you don’t know much about caring for children but you’d like to serve this family in the future, then ask if you can go to some parenting classes with her. If she’s tempted to complain about her appearance as her pregnancy progresses, be sure to tell her often whenever she’s having a good hair day or her skin is glowing. More importantly, encourage her with the eternal perspective that she is being fruitful now – and bless her for it. This is a privilege that we women have, to follow the example of Elizabeth and bless the fruit of another woman’s womb (Luke 1:42).